Some heavy rain fell during the first and latter parts of the month, which it was hoped would extinguish the still glowing embers of the vast fires which had surrounded the place, and which, being scattered over the country every dry and windy day; occasioned new and dreadful conflagrations.
There were not any arrivals during the month, except that of the Colonial schooner from the Hawkesbury, with a cargo of Indian corn, and some wheat that had been damaged by the weevil, an enemy which had been imported among the rice from India.
March.] It appeared by the books in which were entered the certificates granted to the convicts who had again become free people, that there were at this time not less than 600 men off the store and working for themselves in the colony; forming a vast deduction of labouring people from the public strength, and adding a great many chances against the safety of private and public property, as well as personal security.
An extraordinary theft was committed about the middle of the month, which very forcibly marked the inherent depravity of some of these miscreants. While the miller was absent for a short time, part of the sails belonging to the mill were stolen. Now this machine was at work for the benefit of those very incorrigible vagabonds who had thus, for a time, prevented its being of use to any one, and who, being too lazy to grind for themselves, had formerly been obliged to pay one third of their whole allowance of wheat, to have the remainder ground for them by hand mills, an expense that was saved to them by bringing their corn to the public mill.
Twice during this month it became necessary to assemble the court of criminal judicature: at one of which, a man named Mobbs was capitally convicted of robbing the public stores, upon the evidence of an accomplice, who was admitted on the part of the crown. They had stolen at different times an incredible quantity of clothing, provisions, and various other articles, and ought to have been much sooner detected. Mobbs suffered death, and exhibited himself at the gallows as a wicked and hardened offender.
For offenders not deserving of capital punishment, Norfolk Island had been for some time a place of banishment; and the convicts in general felt this second transportation more severely than the first: notwithstanding which, they continued to commit offences that they knew must end in that punishment. Four prisoners, one of them a soldier, were at this time sentenced to seven years exile to that island, for different offences; and when viewed in this light, as a place of confinement for some of her worst members, Norfolk Island might be considered as an useful appendage to the principal settlement.
In pursuance of the order which was issued in January last, recommending the settlers to appoint meetings, at which they should fix the rate of wages that it might be proper to pay for the different kinds of labour which their farms should require, the settlers had met, and submitted to the governor the several resolutions that they had entered into; by which he was enabled to fix a rate that he conceived to be fair and equitable between the farmer and the labourer.